Today’s Recipes: Homemade Chicken Nuggets, Homemade Spaghetti O’s, Santa Fe Carne Adovada, and Santa Fe Chile Verde (Green Chile Pork Stew).
Today’s recipes celebrate the concepts of three of this year’s Academy Award nominees for Best Film. When I heard that “Toy Story 3” and “The Kids Are All Right,” both family films, were nominated two childhood favorites immediately leapt to mind … Spaghetti O’s and Chicken Nuggets. It is hard to find things you know your children will like every time, but these two are a lock. Unfortunately, they are full of preservatives, high sodium levels, and other ingredients we can’t control. But by making them from scratch we finally can offer our children (or ourselves) healthier, homemade versions.
The Spaghetti O’s are about as close to the canned version as you can get with a very plain tomato sauce that children love. If you want a more adult version, or more intense flavor, you can use my Killer Marinara Sauce. The ring-shaped pasta is called Anellini and can be ordered on line if you want to stay true to the original, or you can use any small pasta shapes that are easier to find, like stars or alphabets.
The Chicken Nuggets are really just smaller versions of my favorite fried chicken that I grew up eating. A specialty of my grandmother’s, a cast iron skillet will give you the best, most consistent results every time. Cast iron takes awhile to heat up but will hold the heat better than just about any material, helping to maintain the heat of the oil which minimizes the amount the food absorbs while cooking. If you want a healthier version, you can also bake them. Because I use panko (Japanese breadcrumbs), they will be just as crunchy as those fried.
Once again, catering to children’s palates, these are very simply seasoned. If you like, you can increase the seasonings and add some dried herbs and spicy ingredients to the flour mixture. Thyme and cayenne or chipotle powder would be good choices. You can serve these with any dipping sauces you like. Barbecue sauce is always popular in our house.
To represent “The Fighter,” I thought about foods with “knock you out” heat. My husband and I went on vacation to Santa Fe, New Mexico and fell in love with the region. Amazingly beautiful, it truly lives up to its state motto, The Land of Enchantment. With the red hills and unbelievably blue skies, everywhere you look is full of bright colors. As delightful as downtown Santa Fe is, you should take a drive out into the countryside to experience the wild beauty of the area. No wonder artist Georgia O’Keefe couldn’t stay away!
New Mexico is a fascinating merger of three cultures. A harmonious blending of Anglo, American Indian, and Mexican traditions, it is a unique area. Somehow they all figured out a way to live together, a lesson many other countries could certainly learn from. You see aspects of each culture everywhere you look. From the Indian jewelry and art, to the brightly colored gates and doors common in Mexico and strings of drying red chiles, it is a delightful community.
One of the first things you learn when you get to New Mexico is that virtually all your meals will be served with chile sauce. There are two versions, red and green. The red sauce is made from dried red chiles while the green sauce is made from fresh green chiles. Both are very spicy, so always ask which is hotter – it varies from restaurant to restaurant. If you want a little of each, sound like a local and ask for “Christmas.”
Two of the most common offerings on menus are Carne Adovada and Chile Verde. The first is made with the area’s famous dried and ground red New Mexican chiles while the second utilizes the famous green chiles. You may have heard of Hatch, New Mexico where they have an annual festival celebrating the chiles that grow there. When you arrive, the entire area smells of the roasting chiles. Pure heaven. If you love them as much as I do, you can order them frozen and make your own authentic sauces. If not, you can buy fresh chiles and roast them yourself in the oven or on the grill. And you can also find powdered green chiles online.
One of the most fun things I did on our trip to Santa Fe was to take a class at the Santa Fe School of Cooking. I recommend it if you are a foodie – it is a wonderful way to learn about the local ingredients and cooking styles. When you make the dishes yourself you can dial the heat up or down depending on your taste. The flavors are incredible – so bright and intense. I still buy my chile powders, chipotle en adobo, and other ingredients from the school.
So whether you are cooking for kids or want “knock you out” heat, I hope you enjoy these recipes!
- 6 cups canned tomato sauce
- 3 to 4 cups water
- 1 to 2 tsp garlic powder, or to your taste - you may want to leave out for the kid’s version
- 1 lb Anellini (ring-shaped pasta) or any small pasta shape such as alphabets or stars
- 1-1/2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
- 1/4 to 1/2 cup milk
- 2 tbsp butter
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Combine the tomato sauce, water, and garlic powder together in a large pot. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
- When the mixture is boiling, add the pasta to the pot. Cook, stirring frequently because the pasta has a tendency to stick to the bottom, until pasta is tender. Length of time is dependent on the style of pasta you choose. Follow the package directions.
- Add the cheese and stir until it is melted. Add 1/4 cup of the milk and the butter. Add more milk if desired for a thinner consistency. Taste and add salt and pepper to suit your taste.
- Serve immediately.
- Yield: about 4 servings
- 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1/2 tsp onion powder, optional
- 1/4 tsp garlic powder, optional
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 3 eggs
- 2 cups panko breadcrumbs
- 1-1/2 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs, breasts, or tenders
- Canola oil, if you choose the frying method
- In a flat container (such as a square baking pan), combine the flour, paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Whisk together until well blended.
- Beat the eggs in a medium-sized bowl until smooth and set next to the flour mixture. Place the panko breadcrumbs in another flat container and set next to the eggs.
- You want to have all the chicken about the same thickness so everything cooks evenly. You can pound smaller pieces if needed, but if you are using thick breasts, cut them in half horizontally to create two thinner halves. Cut into roughly 2-inch cubes. Rinse and pat dry with paper towels.
- The technique to prepare the chicken for either baking or frying is the same. Working with a few pieces at a time, dredge the chicken in the seasoned flour. Transfer to the bowl with the beaten eggs and then into the panko. Roll in the panko until thoroughly coated.
- If some of your cubes are smaller, place them in a separate pile and cook them independently of the larger pieces, adjusting cooking times as needed.
- To Bake: Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and preheat the oven to 425°F. Distribute coated chicken cubes on the lined sheet and bake until cooked through, about 15 minutes, depending on the size of pieces.
- To Fry: Heat a large, high-sided skillet over medium-high heat about 1 minute. Pour in about 1/2-inch of canola oil and heat until a drop of water pops when it hits the oil. Very carefully add the chicken cubes and cook until golden brown on all sides. Transfer to a rack set over a paper towel-lined baking sheet to drain. Using the rack helps keep the chicken pieces crispy.
- Serve immediately.
- Yield: 4 to 6 servings
- 1/3 cup peanut or canola oil
- 3-1/2 lb pork loin or butt, cut in 3/4-inch cubes (you can also use beef if you prefer; sirloin would be a good alternative)
- 2 cups diced onion
- 2 tbsp freshly minced garlic
- 4 cup chicken broth or water, divided
- 2 tsp ground coriander seed
- 2 tsp dried Mexican oregano
- 2 tsp ground Ancho chile powder
- 3/4 cup Chimayo ground red chile, mild or medium heat
- 1 tbsp red chile honey, or any honey you have on hand
- 2 tbsp sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar
- Salt to taste
- Optional seasonings: ground cumin seed, toasted ground chile seeds, or toasted ground pumpkin seeds
- The traditional method for making this dish is to mix the marinade ingredients together and pour this over the meat. Cover the mixture and refrigerate overnight. Pour the meat and the marinade into an ovenproof casserole or pot and bake, covered, for 2 to 2-1/2 hours, or until tender.
- Quick Method: Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- Heat the oil in a large skillet and brown pork in batches. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the pork to a bowl and set aside. Add the onion to skillet and sauté until golden and lightly caramelized. Add the garlic and sauté for 1 minute, stirring often. Deglaze the skillet with 1 cup of the chicken broth, scraping the bottom of the pan, loosening the browned bits with a spoon.
- Place the coriander, oregano, Ancho powder, Chimayo chile, honey, vinegar, and salt in a food processor. Add the cooked onions, garlic and broth from the skillet plus 2 more cups of the chicken broth. Process until the mixture is thoroughly combined.
- Place the browned pork, the chile marinade and the remaining 1 cup chicken broth in an ovenproof pot or dish, stir to combine well, and cook for 1 hour or until the pork is tender. You can also use a slow cooker. Cook for 3 hours on High or 6 hours on Low.
- You can serve the Carne Adovada over chile rellenos, cooked rice, wrapped in a flour tortilla as a burrito, or with beans and posole. This dish reheats wonderfully and is better the next day.
- 3 lb pork shoulder
- 1 small onion, quartered
- 4 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
- 4 whole cloves
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tbsp salt
- 1/2 tsp black peppercorns
- 2 onions, chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tbsp lard, vegetable shortening, canola or olive oil
- 4 Russet potatoes, cubed
- 1 tbsp Mexican oregano
- 3 to 4 cups roasted, peeled, chopped New Mexican green chiles (Anaheim or poblano chiles are good alternatives)
- 1 (12 oz) can chopped tomatoes (optional)
- 4 to 6 cups chicken or pork stock
- 2 tbsp Chipotle en Adobo (optional)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Prepare the Pork: Trim off some of the fat from the meat and cut into 1-inch cubes. Place all the pork ingredients in a large soup pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil, skim off foam, reduce to a simmer and cook until fork-tender. Remove pork and reserve pork and liquid separately. This can be done up to 1 day ahead.
- You can use the cooking liquid for all or a portion of the stock required to make the stew. If you refrigerate it, the fat will rise to the top and solidify, making it easy to remove when cold.
- Make the Stew: In a 6-quart pan, sauté the onions and garlic in lard over medium-high heat for 1 minute stirring frequently. Add remaining ingredients, including the pork cubes and pork stock (or chicken stock) and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for at least 1 hour.
- Adjust the seasonings with salt and pepper. Serve with fresh flour tortillas.
- Yield: 6 to 8 servings